Interview: Not About Heroes @ NNT

The spring season at Nottingham New Theatre is officially underway as amazing shows keep spouting from the pipeline. This week Impact talks to Laura Jayne Bateman and Lydia Smith, director and producer of the season’s third play, Not About Heroes.

So, what is the play about?

LJB: The play is set in November 1932. In Wiltshire we see Siegfried Sassoon at the age of 36 looking back on the First World War and his time with Wilfred Owen. They’re both two of the most famous war poets, so the play looks at that relationship: how their friendship developed, how they came to love each other, and how that relationship then informed the poetry that everyone knows and loves.

For each of you, what is the best aspect of the play?

LS: I like that it’s not only about the two characters in the play it also helps us remember everyone else involved in the war. It gives you an understanding of what everyone had to go through and what a terrible thing it was. It explores what actually happened – the truth of the thoughts of the people going through it.

LJB: Their poems are used a lot in the play which is great because you get to hear words on a page being bought to life. This technique reinforces that yes, Sassoon and Owen had a really terrible time, but there were also so many thousands of men that went through the same thing and what their true feeling were. Note that it is not a political play, it doesn’t condemn the war from the playwright’s point of view, it does from the characters point of view – it’s a very truthful play.

The two characters are completely different and their friendship is grounded on one common love; poetry. Have the actors accomplished this portrayal of friendship?

LS: The two actors we have are amazing! They’ve grasped it so well. Laura’s given them a lot of background information and they’ve also gone and done their own research as well. Fortunately, there is so much information out there so the actors have taken this research and used it to develop their own ideas that they then bring into the rehearsal. They’ve done all of this individual work but are still willing to listen to us as well. We’re really grateful to them.

LJB: They’ve embodied the characters so well that even if the set falls down or sets on fire, you will be mesmerised by their performance. It’s a display of great acting which is really important because Sassoon and Owen were real people, there’s no fiction in the play at all. Its gives you more respect for the real life people.

Why should students in particular come and watch this play?

LS: These two characters are very young, most people who went to war were the age of the students so from an age point of view, it’s resonant. Jacob, who plays Owen, said the other day that he is only two years younger than Owen was when he was commissioned, so we hope that people will watch and think ‘my god, these guys are the same age of me when they were fighting, and killing, and experiencing these horrific things’.

LJB: This play is a fresh take – It doesn’t reinforce how terrible the war was. Instead you’re looking back so it’s more about the aftermath; a really unique look at the war that hasn’t necessarily been explored. I won’t say that it’s never been done by students because I don’t know if it has, but it’s never been done at the New Theatre. It isn’t a commonly done show by students (it isn’t a commonly done show full stop) because the nature of it isn’t commercial theatre so it’s a really good opportunity to see a show that is unique.

Finally, sum up your production in just three words.

LJB: Unique, unpredictable and uplifting.

LS: Witty, thought-provoking, Emotional.

Jessica Millott

‘Not About Heroes’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre from Wednesday 11th March until Saturday 14th March. For more information, see here.

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